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Electrocautery for Genital Warts

Surgery Overview

Electrocautery removes genital warts on the penis, vulva, or around the anus by burning them with a low-voltage electrified probe.

Electrocautery is usually done in a doctor's office or a clinic. The injection of a numbing medicine (local anesthetic) is usually used for pain control. Medicine that causes unconsciousness (general anesthetic) may be used depending on the number of warts to be removed or destroyed.

What To Expect After Surgery

The recovery time depends on the location and number of warts removed.

  • After surgery you may have some pain, swelling, and redness.
  • Healing usually occurs within 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Healing time may be prolonged if a large area of tissue is burned.
  • Scarring may occur.

Why It Is Done

Electrocautery removes warts with little blood loss. It usually is used for small areas of warts.

How Well It Works

In one study, electrocautery was effective for about 8 out of 10 people in removing warts and stopping them from coming back 6 months after treatment. Warts are less likely to return after electrocautery than after medicine treatment.1

The removal of genital warts may not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed.

Risks

Risks of electrocautery are:

  • Bleeding. Blood loss is usually minimal, because the electrocautery seals blood vessels as it removes warts.
  • Infection. Antibiotics may be given at the time of the procedure to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Pain. Medicine may be needed for several days after the electrocautery procedure.

What To Think About

Electrocautery for external genital warts can be safely used during pregnancy.

Treating genital warts may not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed. A person treated for genital warts may still be able to spread the infection. Condoms may help reduce the risk of HPV infection.

The benefits and effectiveness of each type of treatment need to be compared with the side effects and cost. Discuss this with your health professional.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

References

Citations

  1. Buck HW (2010). Warts (genital), search date December 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised June 21, 2012

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